I once worked for a toxic church in a community of crazy people. It was a confusing place where everything was ass backwards.
Examples: I fired the youth minister for inappropriate behavior toward a girl in his group, and the congregation sided against her and sympathized greatly with him.
I had another counseling case where someone in the congregation demanded to know how it was being handled. I told that person to back the hell off because who I spoke to was confidential and not subject to her examination. This should have reassured the church that they could trust me, but instead they thought I was too harsh with the woman I faced off.
One teenager was also into witchcraft, and I'm told he put a curse on me. I laughed but I sort of believed he might have had that kind of power. I don't believe that now.
I was threatened, lied to, and conspired against. Like the cartoon said, "You're not paranoid; people really are out to get you."
Like I said, it wasn't just this church, but the whole religious community. Seven preachers, including me, all left at about the same time. Three of them left the ministry--one of those ran off with the organist. A couple of us were sick. And one died of illness.
Most churches, even the dysfunctional ones, are not as mean and hateful as what I've described. In fact, I have received much kindness from people in the name of Jesus.
But I've learned some things.
First, my family is more important than my church. I don't know why we clergy will often sacrifice our families for this work. I was on this track back then, but not anymore.
Second, I won't die for this work. Jesus' death will have to be enough for them, because I won't sacrifice myself for them.
I spent some time in the hospital for both psychological and physical disorders. I have often wondered why I did not die because I came pretty damn close. I learned about my weaknesses and I learned about my strengths. I'm smarter now. Better than I was before. I'm also more bitter and cynical. I've paid some dues.
But I didn't die, and I'm still serving.